ENUGU: Chime Years, To Forget Or Not To Forget
ENUGU State Governor, Sullivan Chime, will, by May 29, this year, complete his eight-year tenure.
Perhaps, one of the legacies that will live after him is, the peace and security he ushered in, on arrival at the Lion Building, and which he sustained till 2015. Before his ascension, Enugu residents lived with uncertainty. There were rampant killings and robberies that took nightlife and development away. Residents were in fear and slept with one eye opened. It was common sight before his arrival to see several apartments barricaded with iron bars, and streets becoming empty as early as 7pm.
Speaking on this development, Chief Michael Nwachukwu explained that the security boost by the governor was the tonic needed to launch the state on the path of development and economic growth.
“We were able to have street lights functioning again. Several urban roads were opened to reduce traffic jams. He has maintained some level of sanctity on the roads with constructions, and traffic lights installed at designated junctions. Orderliness was also achieved with the ban on the operation of commercial motorcycles. Though, many have criticised his administration, our people are beginning to reap the impact, as there are less accidents on our roads,” he said.
Nwachukwu, a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Chime would be remembered for conducting periodic local council elections in the state. He said the governor, through this, empowered the third tier of government that brought governance close to the people. “It was no longer appointment of administrators, as it happened in almost every state of the country. Here in Enugu, under Chime, we have elected council chairmen and councilors, who make laws, execute projects and are wholly in charge of affairs at their councils. Chime gave them a free hand to operate. He did not tamper with their allocation.”
He pointed at the ongoing construction of the new workers’ secretariat in Enugu as one of the enduring legacies of the Chime administration, adding that the project, when completed, will give a new lease of life to the state’s workforce. “Workers can now boast of Internet facilities and work with relative ease, unlike previous chaotic arrangements where they barely give their best, due to poor working conditions.”
But Osmond Ugwu, one of the union leaders in the state, condemned the idea of building a new secretariat when “workers are hungry.” He said Enugu workers would like to forget the Chime administration in a hurry, as they gained nothing from it.
“It is on record that Chime remains the only governor that refused to pay the new minimum wage approved by the federal government. Leave allowances were never paid, among other welfare packages. Recruitments were never an issue for his administration. The government believes in strangulation of the workforce, especially, those who opposed the mess going on in the state.
“There is no basis for the administration to remain in office. To further humiliate the workers, several governors attended Workers’ Day celebrations in their state, but such was not the case with his administration; he never attended any held in Enugu. So, the workers never had it easy with him. He should not build a secretariat for the dead but for the living,” Ugwu said.
Another thing people of the state will possibly want to forget in a hurry is Chime’s attitude to official engagements. He either went to official functions late or never showed up at all. There are several stories of individuals and organisations that had to reschedule their events because they wanted the governor involved. It was gathered that because of this attitude to work, certain government responsibilities shifted to his former chief of staff, who allegedly, ran the administration the way she wanted, and in the process, created many enemies for Chime.
The case of Sunday Onyebuchi, his former Deputy, who was impeached less than six months to the end of the administration, is still fresh and remains one of the saddest milestones in the history of his government.
Against public outcry that the move was too late in the day, the governor ensured Onyebuchi was removed over allegations he had poultry in his compound, even when there is a bigger poultry at the governor’s lodge.
The removal of Onyebuchi became one of the low points of the administration, coming few months after the governor had spent nearly a year receiving medical attention overseas.
The poor culture of continuity that stalled public projects started by his predecessor, is another low point of the administration. Residents may not forgive him in a hurry for refusal to complete the International Conference Centre, at Okpara Square, which Nnamani started.
The Guardian learnt that the state-of-the-art centre was about 80 per cent completed when the Nnamani administration ended. Chime refused to complete the project, citing his administration’s lack of resources. It turned out, however, that the administration, in its latter days, sold portions of the land to private developers without applying due process. The issue remained a controversial one, attracting the ire of residents with many threatening court action.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Dominic Okwukwe, said: “Enugu will like to forget in a hurry the primitive acquisition that trailed the last days of the Chime administration: the manner the Conference Centre was sold, the old Eastern Manufacturing Centre on Zik Avenue, the selling of land behind House of Assembly, the Hotel Presidential Enugu, the State Diagnostic Centre, which was never completed four years after, among others.”
He added: “Enugu borrowed over N5bn from the World Bank to reticulate water in the state, in 2006. But as we speak, there is no water anywhere. Government is yet to repay the debts. I have not seen any project the administration has completed in the last eight years. Look at the Diagnostic Centre, the International Conference centre, the new secretariat, even after the government allegedly invested N13bn in the project. So, Enugu will like to forget Chime in a hurry and wish that his type never show up in the leadership of the state again.”
He lamented the state of the education sector, saying: “Our primary schools remained on the drawing board of renovation in the last eight years. There was the N36bn UBEC funding earmarked for the renovation. But as we speak, the funds cannot be accounted for. It has now become an issue of controversy as the House has launched a probe. So, it was not the best of times for Enugu under the Chime administration and we will not forget what happened to the future of the education of our youths.”